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As the Holocaust recedes from us in time, the guardianship of its legacy is being passed on from its survivors and witnesses to the next generation. How should they, in turn, convey its knowledge to others? What are the effects of a traumatic past on its inheritors, and the ...
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As the Holocaust recedes from us in time, the guardianship of its legacy is being passed on from its survivors and witnesses to the next generation. How should they, in turn, convey its knowledge to others? What are the effects of a traumatic past on its inheritors, and the second-generation's responsibilities to its received memories?
In this meditation on the long aftermath of atrocity, Eva Hoffman-a child of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust with the help of neighbors, but whose entire families perished-probes these questions through personal reflections, and through broader explorations of the historical, psychological, and moral implication of the second-generation experience. As she guides us through the poignant juncture at which living memory must be relinquished, she asks what insights can be carried from the past to the newly problematic present, and urges us to transform potent family narratives into a fully informed understanding of a forbidding history.
A New York Times Notable Book 2003
Author Biography: Eva Hoffman was born in Cracow, Poland, and emigrated to the United States at the age of thirteen. She is the author of three highly acclaimed works of nonfiction, Lost in Translation, Exit into History, and Shtetl, and one novel, The Secret. She divides her time between London and Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is a visiting professor at MIT.
There were the images she returned to again and again, the dark amulets:
how she and my father spent their days in a forest bunker, and how she
waited for him, alone, as he went out to forage or plead for food in the
night. How they later sat in a peasant's attic for two years, in wet
straw, shivering from cold in the winter and from hunger in all seasons.
How her sister-this was the heart of grief-had been murdered. She was
shot into a mass grave in Zalosce, not far from where my parents were
hiding. A witness later told my mother that the Jews rounded up for that
particular massacre had to dig the pit into which their bodies were
subsequently thrown, sometimes still quivering with remainders of life.
She was just nineteen, my mother would say about her sister, and begin to
The episodes, the talismanic litanies, were repeated but never elaborated
upon. They remained compressed, packed, sharp. I suppose the unassimilable
character of the experiences they referred to was expressed-and passed
on-through this form. For it was precisely the indigestibility of these
utterances, their fearful weight of densely packed feeling, as much as any
specific content, that I took in as a child. The fragmentary phrases
lodged themselves in my mind like shards, like the deadly needles I
remember from certain fairytales, which pricked your flesh and could never
be extracted again.
Excerpted from AFTER SUCH KNOWLEDGE
by EVA HOFFMAN Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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|Pt. I||From Event to Fable||1|
|Pt. II||From Fable to Psyche||31|
|Pt. III||From Psyche to Narrative||75|
|Pt. IV||From Narrative to Morality||101|
|Pt. V||From Morality to Memory||149|
|Pt. VI||From Memory to the Past||201|
|Pt. VII||From the Past to the Present||235|